Mother Anna Grace Neenan Pilot photo/courtesy Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia
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NASHVILLE -- At their general chapter in June, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville, Tennessee elected Mother Anna Grace Neenan, who is originally from Weymouth, to serve as Prioress General until 2024.
Mother Anna Grace grew up in Weymouth, where she and her family were parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish. She sometimes accompanied her mother to daily Adoration.
In an email to The Pilot, Mother Anna Grace said, "I have often reflected on how many religious vocations have come from this community."
"I cannot help but ponder my indebtedness to those who prayed before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for vocations and for the Church," she added.
She expressed deep gratitude "for the faithful witness of my parents, who have loved their faith and have passed down that precious gift to us."
Mother Anna Grace was a professional ballet dancer for 10 years before she discerned a call to religious life.
She learned of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia through her sister, Sister Mary Angelica, who entered the community in 1989.
"The Lord had a very gentle way of calling me to religious life. I think it began with a quiet realization that I was not totally fulfilled with the life I was living. Although I actually had achieved many of my personal goals, something was missing," Mother Anna Grace said.
She was not able to articulate this feeling, she said, until she suffered an injury that gave her the time and space to reflect on her life. She asked herself: "Am I truly happy with what I have chosen?"
"Once I opened myself to facing this question, God was there, gently pointing me in the right direction. I finally had the courage to ask the Lord what he wanted for me," Mother Anna Grace said.
She recalled, "At first, the idea of a religious vocation was daunting, but I came to realize that God wants our happiness, and a life of loving and serving him was, in fact, in accord with my deepest desires. Once I made this connection, a steady peace entered my life, and it has never departed."
Mother Anna Grace entered the community of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in 1996 and professed her perpetual vows in 2003.
She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Aquinas College and an M.A. in Educational Administration from Christian Brothers University. She spent a year studying at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and is currently earning a master's degree in theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
For the last six years, Mother Anna Grace has been the Director of Novices, leading the sisters' formation during their first four years in the community.
Following the Dominican charism of education, Mother Anna Grace has served as a teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Denver and St. Henry School in Nashville, and as principal at St. Mary's School in Greenville, South Carolina. She has also been a member of the Aquinas College Board of Directors, and as Prioress General she will now be its chair.
In a June 22 announcement from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia Congregation, Mother Anna Grace said, "I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to enter more deeply into our rich heritage rooted in St. Dominic and St. Cecilia, and my hope is to continue the good work already begun in our community."